2009-11-19 / Local & State

PA Adult Education Courses Helping Locals Succeed

By Mary Spicer THE MEADVILLE TRIBUNE

MEADVILLE, Pa. (AP) – At Crawford County Career and Technical Center, “night school’’ definitely isn’t what it used to be.

While the evening “hobby’’ classes traditionally offered at the Thurston Road facility formerly known as Crawford County Area Vocational-Technical School are on hiatus this year as the building undergoes a major makeover, adult education designed for workers looking for serious career advancement or even a whole new career is in full swing.

With three decades in the tool-and-die industry under his belt, for example, Gary Roberts was no stranger to layoffs. When the latest round hit, however, enough was enough.

His last day at work fell on a Monday. Tuesday morning, Roberts, 52, started training for a new career.

“I thought I’d try something different,’’ he said during lunch break on his second day as an over-the-road trucking student in an adult course recently introduced by the career and technical center.

Steven Vielanin was also in the market for a career change. After spending most of his working life in the restaurant industry, Vielanin, 40, wanted to get off unemployment. He’s now approximately half-way through a rigorous six-week program that keeps him busy with both classroom and hands-on transportation training Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

About a decade ago, Bill Wantz made a career change from driving his own straight truck the kind with all its axles attached to a single frame to a job in the security industry. Now that his daughter has married and moved away, he’s heading back to transportation. But this time, Wantz, now 50, will be running with the big dogs.

Roberts, Vielanin and Wantz are all enrolled in one of CCCTC’s newest adult offerings. However, you won’t be seeing any big trucks hanging around the Thurston Road facility. Under a contract with CCCTC, teachers, curriculum and equipment are being provided by Transport Tech, a transportation training provider with facilities in Bessemer and Brookville. The company’s new Meadville facility is in West Mead Industrial Park on property owned by Chipsco Precision Services.

The first three weeks are officially considered to be classroom time, “but about a third of that is spent in the yard with the equipment, getting down to basics,’’ according to instructor Robert Madison. In addition, students spend a fair amount of time getting industry-required ducks in a row. “These guys have a lot of loops to jump through just because of the nature of what the industry wants from them,’’ Madison explained. Passports, for example, are required to go into Canada, while entering a secure port requires special identification. By the time students are finished with the course, they’re literally ready to go.

As the training facility expands, they’ll also be ready to do more than maneuver gigantic trucks wherever they need to go.

“For any type of manufacturing that goes on in any area, transportation is important, Rege Schulz Sr., Transport Tech’s owner and chief executive officer, explained during a recent interview. “We’ve only been here for a couple of months, but already we’re hearing that employers need things beyond simply holding a commercial driver’s license.’’

Working in conjunction with the Community College of Allegheny County, CCCTC is also offering courses in welding technology and machining technology. After completion of a yearlong comprehensive course, graduates will leave with both state-of-the-art abilities and 18 or 23 credits toward an associate degree from the college. Those two classes and CCCTC’s everpopular nurse aide program are the only adult-education courses being offered during the 2009- 10 school year at the Thurston Road facility.

Online courses ranging from introductory to comprehensive are also being offered through CCCTC.

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